After Abstaining For 22 Years, US Will Vote Against ‘Useless’ Annual UN Resolution on Golan Heights

By Patrick Goodenough | November 16, 2018 | 4:22am EST
Israeli soldiers look out across Syria from an observation post on the Golan Heights on July 23, 2018. (Photo by Lior Mizrahi/Getty Images)

(Update:  Friday's vote on the Golan Heights measure passed by 151 votes to two -- Israel and the United States -- and with 14 abstentions. The other eight resolutions critical of Israel all passed by large margins, with the U.S. opposing all eight.)

( – A U.N. General Assembly committee will on Friday endorse nine resolutions critical of Israel, but – for the first time in more than two decades – the United States will change its position from “abstain” to “no” when a resolution on the Golan Heights is put to the vote.

Signaling that decision, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley in a statement Thursday described the annual resolution as “useless.”

Although Israeli control over the Golan is not recognized by the international community, since the bloody Syrian civil war erupted critics have viewed as increasingly ludicrous the yearly approval of a text implying that the inhabitants of the small ridge would be better off under the Assad regime than under Israeli sovereignty.

“If this resolution ever made sense, it surely does not today,” Haley said, adding that “the atrocities the Syrian regime continues to commit prove its lack of fitness to govern anyone.”

She also pointed to Iran’s ongoing “destructive influence” in Syria and the continuing presence there of ISIS and other terrorist groups.

“This resolution does nothing to bring any parties closer to a peace agreement,” Haley concluded. “The United States will vote no.”

The General Assembly resolution, entitled “The Occupied Syrian Golan,” has passed every year since 1993, and every year since 1996 the U.S. has abstained, leaving Israel alone to oppose the measure, which passed that year by 153 votes to one.

Israel has been the lone “no” vote each year since then, with the exception of 2017, when the tiny Pacific island of Palau joined it. (It passed 151-2, with 20 abstentions.)

As it does every year, the resolution calls on Israel to return the strategic ridge, which it has controlled since 1967 and annexed in 1981, to Syria.

As before, the measure does not refer to the civil war, to abuses committed by the Assad regime and other parties to the conflict, or to the more than half a million lives lost, according to the U.N.’s own estimates.

It does, however, demand that Israel stop “its repressive measures against the population of the occupied Syrian Golan.”

Hillel Neuer, executive director of the non-governmental organization UN Watch, called the Golan resolution “obscene” and “astonishing.”

“After the Syrian regime has killed half a million of its own people, how can the U.N. call for more people to be handed over to Assad’s rule?” he asked Tuesday, calling the timing of the vote “morally galling, and logically absurd.”

Neuer welcomed Haley’s announcement, saying she “defends truth and fights cynical murderers like Syria's Assad.”

Israel’s ambassador to the U.N. Danny Danon thanked his outgoing U.S. counterpart “for her continued steadfastness with Israel and the truth.”

“It is time for the world to distinguish between those who stabilize the region and those who sow terror,” he tweeted.

‘Disproportionate assault’

The General Assembly’s “special political and decolonization committee” will vote Friday of a total of nine resolutions critical of Israel. Next month the full General Assembly will endorse all nine.

Customarily, the U.S. has joined Israel and a small handful of others in opposing the annual votes, abstaining only on the Golan measure and one other, entitled “Assistance to Palestine refugees.”

Last year’s lopsided vote counts for the nine resolutions were:

--158-7 (“Persons displaced as a result of the June 1967 and subsequent hostilities”)

--162-6 (text relating to Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA)

--159-7 (“Palestine refugees’ properties and their revenues”)

--83-10 (text relating to a special committee investigating Israeli human rights practices)

--157-7 (text relating to the applicability of the Geneva Convention on protection of civilians in wartime to the “Occupied Palestinian Territory”)

--155-7 (“Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the occupied Syrian Golan”)

--153-8 (“Israeli practices affecting the human rights of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem”)

--162-1 (Assistance to Palestine refugees”)

--151-2 (“The Occupied Syrian Golan.”)

Commenting on Friday’s votes in general, Neuer said “the U.N.’s disproportionate assault against the Jewish state undermines the institutional credibility of what is supposed to be an impartial international body.”

The pattern is evident not just at the General Assembly, but also at other U.N. forums – including the Human Rights Council, which since its creation in 2006 has passed more resolutions condemning Israel than the rest of the world’s nations put together.

The World Health Organization’s annual assembly has more than once passed just one country-specific resolution – condemning Israel over “health conditions in the occupied Palestinian territory, including east Jerusalem, and in the occupied Syrian Golan.”

Israel captured the Golan – a ridge about half the size of Rhode Island – during the 1967 Six Day War, after the Syrians used it to launch artillery barrages aimed at Israeli communities in the Galilee valley below.

A week after Israel took the Golan it offered to return it in exchange for a peace treaty with Syria, but a conference of Arab states that year rejected any negotiations with, recognition of, or peace with the Jewish state.

Since the early 1990s various Israeli governments considered relinquishing the Golan in return for a peace agreement with Damascus, but no deal materialized. The last serious peace effort applicable to the Golan was in 2008, when Turkey tried unsuccessful to mediate Israel and the Assad regime.

As of 2018, Israel has administered the Golan Heights more than twice as long as Syria did – 51 years compared to 21.

Syria controlled the Golan from formal independence in 1946 until 1967, and before 1946 the ridge was part of a French mandate (after Britain lopped it off a British mandate in 1923 and ceded it to France.) Before World War I the area fell under the Ottoman Empire.

See also:

Time For US to Grasp ‘Reality,’ Recognize Israeli Sovereignty Over Golan, Experts Say (July 18, 2018)
As Syria Burns, the U.N.’s Top Health Body Singles Out Israel (May 24, 2013)

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